Falling Down an Upward Spiral by M Rose, admin

1. Can't Stay Away by M Rose

2. Just An Illusion by M Rose

3. Reality Shattered by M Rose

4. The Trap by M Rose

5. Hope Eternal by M Rose

6. Brotherly Love by M Rose

7. Patience is Not a Virtue by M Rose

8. Choices Made by M Rose

Can't Stay Away by M Rose
Disclaimer: The Pretender and all its characters belong to Pretender Productions and TNT. No infringement intended, no profit gained.

Thanks: To Lenore and Ginger for looking this over.

Authors Notes: This story takes place after 'Turning Point' and 'Sanctuary'. You might want to read those first before reading this.
Falling Down an Upward Spiral (part 1/8) by M. Rose

~*~*~

"So we meet again." Lyle snickered as two sweepers held the Pretender in place. His smile turned serious and he aimed his 9mm at Jarod, "You've caused me a lot of pain, Jarod."

Jarod's eyes narrowed as he spat out, "My heart is just crying for you."

"Ah, Jarod, but it will." Lyle leaned in closer and whispered in the Pretender's ear, "You will be begging me to kill you when I'm done."

"I wouldn't bet on it."

"We'll have to see about that."

Miss Parker rushed in, "Lyle, what are you do..." she stopped in her tracks when she saw the scene before her.

Lyle turned his head toward his sister and smiled triumphantly. "I win, sis." His arm swung towards her and in that split second Jarod realized what her brother was planning to do.

"PARKER, GET OUT OF HERE."

"I guess that means you lose."

Before she could heed Jarod's warning, the bullet pierced her chest. She looked down in shock as her cream-colored silk blouse quickly became drenched with the crimson liquid and then fixed her eyes on her childhood friend before collapsing to the ground.

Her sibling laughed uncontrollably as Jarod screamed, "NOOOOO."

Squeaking in with oxygen tank by his side, Raines passed by his supposed daughter and towards Lyle. "Good work, son. I knew you wouldn't disappoint me." He turned his attention towards his captive, "Time to go where you belong, Jarod. Time to go home. There's nothing left for you out here."

She couldn't be dead, he thought, but as soon as he saw a significant amount of blood flow out of her, he knew. Lyle was right about one thing; he wanted to die.

"PARKER."

He fought as hard as could to get to Parker's body, but the sweepers dragged him the opposite direction.

"PARKER."

"PARKER." He woke up fighting sheets instead of sweepers.

It was only a dream. Correction, it was a nightmare. One he hadn't been able to shake since his confrontation with Lyle a few days ago.

Peeling off the sweat-soaked sheets, he walked on unsteady legs into the bathroom and splashed cold water on his face. It helped to wake him up, but it didn't take away the feeling of dread coursing throughout him. He looked up and stared at his reflection in the mirror. He looked awful. He was glad to be in-between pretends. He was clearly in no position to concentrate.

As hard as tried to stay awake, he would eventually nod off and then the nightmares would start up again. Every time it was the same scene over and over again and his fear that it might come true, overwhelmed him.

How could he help others, if he couldn't help himself?

He had to find out if his fears were true or if he was just going crazy. As he looked at his computer, he knew there was only one thing to do.

He was able to get the last flight into Delaware. Not only was it the last place he should be, it was an irrational move to make. He should have simply called her or asked Sydney if she was okay, but it wasn't enough. He had to see her in person. He had to make her believe there was a clear and present danger to her life. Lyle would let NOTHING get in his way of achieving power at the Centre aside from death.

There was no question about it; she had to get out of there.

But how could he convince her to leave with him? He would tell her the truth. He had never lied to her and wouldn't start now. She would probably laugh at his insistence, shove her gun in his face. "So Wonder Boy's a psychic now?" and insist that the situation would be under control, "Oh, I think I can handle my brother."

He remembered what Sydney told him. "But, if the person in question is worth the effort, don't stop trying, Jarod. You might be surprised at the result."

The odds were against him.

When he arrived at the cottage, he noticed her car in the driveway and touched the hood. It was still warm, which meant that there was a good chance she was still awake. However, there wasn't a single light on and that caused Jarod's internal alarms to go off. What if she was hurt? Or worse? He tried to rationalize that she probably had gone to bed early, but it didn't work. The sooner he would see that she was okay, the better he would feel.

Once inside, he looked around for anything unusual. Nothing was out of place. And then as he approached the living room he saw her. She was lying on the couch with her eyes closed. The slow rise and fall of her chest indicated she was merely asleep and he sighed in relief.

He took the rare opportunity to watch her. The worry lines were gone, making her look years younger. Also gone was the usual scowl that graced her face too often to count. Didn't she realize that all she needed to capture him was that dazzling smile of hers? She was still dressed in her usual designer work clothes and held an empty glass in one hand that looked ready to fall at any moment. Careful not to wake her, he slowly took the glass and placed it on the coffee table.

Removing the picture frame tightly clutched over her chest would be harder to accomplish. He gently pulled the frame free from her grasp and turned it around to see the photo of her and her mother. She must have been thinking of her mother before she fell asleep and a twinge of sadness went through him.

He placed the frame next to the glass and jumped a little when he felt something touch his cheek. It was a hand ... her hand. She was awake and he thought for sure his life was over, but instead of hearing the click of her 9mm, he turned his head to see her looking at him intently. A look he had seen only one other time -- in front of Ocee's fireplace in the island.

This was definitely NOT what he expected. "Park--" Her thumb caressing his lower lip, stunned him into immediate silence. He figured she was still dreaming and needed to rouse her out of whatever daze she was in, but part of him liked what she was doing and wanted more.

She gazed at his mouth and stroked his lip again, "Shhh." He closed his eyes at the sensation and decided to investigate further before making any rash decisions.

Her gaze journeyed from lips to eyes and he could feel the electricity pull them together closer and closer until they met for a kiss.

This time without interruption.
Just An Illusion by M Rose
See header for disclaimer

Falling Down an Upward Spiral (part 2/8)

by M. Rose

~*~*~

She woke up to warm wet kisses trailing down her exposed back. She was lying on her stomach with her head turned away from him and smiled contentedly. She wanted to see how far he would go in his effort to rouse her from her slumber. He must have detected her conscious state because he halted his actions.

Damn.

"I know you're awake."

"You must be mistaken. I'm still asleep." She snuggled deeper into her pillow.

She could tell the bastard was smiling as he commented. "Is that right? Well then, you won't respond when I do this." She was fully awake now and prepared for something sensual and mind blowing.

He tickled her instead.

She was mad, but her body betrayed her and began to shake with laughter. She turned onto her back to retaliate, but he didn't give her a chance before leaning in and giving her a deep languid kiss.

"Just for that I should take you back to the Centre."

"Then you'd never be able to take advantage of my *skills*."

"Point taken."

She rubbed her leg against his, "Speaking of skills, I think it would be wise to put yours to practice." She purred in his ear.

And as their bodies melted together in heated passion, no one heard the creak of the floorboards in the living room until it was too late.

They both jumped apart when they heard someone clapping.

"Congratulations, sis." Lyle stood at the bedroom doorway with his sweepers in tow. "You know," as her brother approached the bed, Parker felt under her pillow, but her trusted 9mm wasn't there and she cursed at herself.

"I've often thought you should have done this in the beginning. It's so easy to catch a Pretender when his defenses," he looked down at their sheet covered bodies, "as well as other things, are down."

"I swear, Lyle, I'll --"

"You'll what? Kill me?" Lyle laughed and then pulled her gun from his jacket. "It's going to be hard without this." He walked around the bed towards Parker while two sweepers stood beside Jarod and pointed their guns at him. Lyle leaned towards his sister and said, "It's a good thing dear old dad isn't around to see this because it would kill him to know how you've tarnished the Parker name."

"Oh, and by the way," he stood up straight as he looked up at Jarod, "We found Gemini and he's back to where he belongs, so I'm afraid we won't be needing your services anymore." Lyle aimed his gun at the Pretender and shot him in the chest twice. Miss Parker screamed. The look of shock masked her features. She couldn't believe this was happening as saw Jarod's body fall limply on the bed.

"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?"

Calmly, he simply stated, "Why, I don't know what you're talking about." he waved the gun in the air for a moment and then aimed it at her head. "I'm afraid it was your gun that shot Jarod."

"WHAT?" She was shaking now.

"You see, you and Jarod have been in on it from the beginning. Pretending to chase your lover. That's why we were never able to catch him. But you had a fight during one of your little *trysts* and in anger you shot him."

"And who is going to believe that fable?" she spat out in disgust.

"Oh, I think it's quite believable." The familiar voice wheezed out as he entered the room.

"Raines." Miss Parker said through clenched teeth.

"You have betrayed me. On the other hand, if it wasn't for your *relationship* we never would have caught him."

She glanced at the blood soaked sheets next to her and tried to keep down the bile creeping up her throat. "If you didn't need him anymore, why kill him? Why not just let him go?"

In a flat tone, Lyle answered. "Because dear sister, he would never have stopped his quest for retribution as long as he was alive. Plus, he was annoying," he rolled his eyes as he completed his thought, "always trying to save the little people." As he looked at Jarod's bloody corpse, Lyle rubbed the nub where his thumb used to be and added, "Trust me, it was long overdue."

The room began to spin as Raines stood next to Lyle and remarked, "As proud as I am of your skills of seduction, I did make a promise for one of you to have a nice long life at the Centre. You led us to Jarod, but Lyle did catch Gemini. And what a fine Pretender he will turn out to be."

He began to walk away as she asked, "And Major Charles?" She knew it was a futile question.

"Well, let's just say, Jarod is finally reunited with his father." Lyle sighed, "These questions are getting tedious." Lyle pointed the gun at her and then took a moment to gaze at her barely covered breasts. "It's a shame you weren't more ... cooperative. We would have made a great team. Oh well, no crying over spilled milk. Nice knowing you sis."

As her eyes jerked open, she could still hear the blast ringing in her ear. Soft light cascaded through the thin white curtains. The brightness of the room ensured her that Lyle and Raines were never there.

That also meant that Jarod was part of her dream turned nightmare as well. She didn't know if she was happy that he was still out there in the world, alive, or sad because the incredible passion they had was simply a result of an overactive imagination.

An imagination that was extreme in its clarity as she thought of his lips burning marks upon her soul. He touched her in ways only lovers for an eternity could. In fact, it felt so real she swore she smelled the remnants of a night full of amazing sex.

She covered her face with her hands in an attempt to erase the memories that flashed through her head.

The gods were playing a cruel joke on her.

She threw the covers off her and realized she was naked. Not that it was all that odd, she often slept in the buff, but she didn't remember taking her clothes off. Instead, she remembered peeling his black turtleneck sweater over his head and hastily unbuckling his jeans as he swiftly removed her jacket and unbuttoned her blouse.

She shook her head to rid her of such thoughts and slipped into her cream colored silk robe.

She needed to get a grip.

*It didn't happen.*

*THEY never happened.*

She was heading towards the bathroom when she heard a noise coming from outside her room. Instinct took over as she hurried over to the bed to remove her gun from under her pillow. It wasn't there. She always kept it there when she slept. A flash of her brother pointing her own gun at her was still fresh in her mind as she looked as she slowly turned towards the doorway.

She quickly snapped out of her gaze and searched for something to use as a weapon.
Reality Shattered by M Rose
See header for disclaimer.

Falling Down an Upward Spiral (part 3/8)

by M. Rose

~*~*~

He woke up feeling better than he had in a very long time and for a moment he thought it was just another one of his dreams. A glorious dream where there were no barriers between them and they could explore the connection that began so long ago. But as he opened his eyes and saw her sleeping form next to him, he knew it was far better than any dream he'd ever had.

He smiled as he thought about the way she pulled him down on top of her last night. Even half-asleep, she was demanding, but she wasn't asleep when she licked her way down his chest. She wasn't asleep as she pulled down his jeans and took him in her mouth and she wasn't asleep as they found their way to her bedroom not caring what was knocked over in the process.

He will forever remember the aroma of need that hung in the air between them and how their frenzied pace slowed down once in the bedroom as they continued to explore each other.

He knew that he wasn't as experienced as she was when it came to sex, but he was far from innocent. However, he had never felt as complete as he did when he was with her. Their bond went beyond the normal male/female attraction or simple childhood crush. It was surreal and cataclysmic.

Careful not to rouse her, he brushed a strand of hair away from her face and then caressed her cheek. The softness of her skin reminded him that she wasn't the cold and manipulative person she pretended to be, but someone who was capable of love. Someone who was as sick as he was of feeling empty and alone. Someone who realized that he wasn't the enemy. He was her friend.

What they *could* have was always within their grasp. It was the Centre that took that possibility away, abused his abilities, stole his life and kept her in their control ... kept both of them under control for so long.

As he watched her sleep, he recognized the feeling of contentment that grew within him. It was a feeling he wanted to wake up with every day for the rest of his life.

It was time for them to be happy. They deserved it, but did she feel the same? Doubt crept in as he wondered how she would act when she woke up. Would she deny her feelings and put up a wall around her heart yet again?

His stomach growled and he stilled his movements as she shifted in bed. He didn't want to wake her and got out of bed as quietly as he could, put on his jeans and headed towards the kitchen in search of something to eat.

As he suspected, she didn't have much in the form of food, but he was able to make some toast. While he ate, he brewed some coffee. He had heard what a terror she could be if she didn't have a cup first thing in the morning and if he was going to convince her to leave with him, he needed as much ammunition as possible.

He thought he heard movements coming from her bedroom and knew she was awake. He picked up their mugs and mentally prepared himself for what was about to occur.

He didn't know what to expect, but he certainly didn't expect her to swing a 9 iron in his direction.

He wasn't that bad last night, was he?

"Parker."

The shocked look on her face as she realized it was him, wasn't a good sign.

She placed a hand over her heart as she tried to control her breathing. "Jesus Jarod, what the hell are you doing here?"

It wasn't a good sign at all.

"I ... uh ..." he bent down to pick up pieces of ceramic. He had dropped the mugs in an attempt to avoid the swinging golf club. "made some coffee for you."

As he stood, he noticed her staring at his bare chest and connecting the dots in her head. Maybe she thought last night was a dream, as he had when he first woke up? It seemed to be a logical conclusion, although a bit hurtful one. As he looked at her face pale before him, he knew there was something more going on in that head of hers.

"Parker, are you okay?"

~*~*~

She sank into the corner of her bed.

She was far from okay. Her world was spinning out of control. To dream about Jarod was one thing, but for it to become reality was something else all together.

He knelt down in front her and placed his hand on her knee. "Speak to me, Parker."

She looked up to see his worried expression, but all she saw was his bloodied corpse on the bed and the look of satisfaction on Lyle's face.

She led the Centre to Jarod and he died -- because of her.

But he wasn't dead; he was flesh and blood in front of her.

And then it hit her like a ton of bricks, it hadn't been a dream, it was a premonition. She couldn't explain it, but she just knew if he stayed there, the Centre would find out and then he would end up just like Tommy. She couldn't let that happen again. Not as long as she could do something to prevent it.

She didn't want any more blood on her hands.

She brushed his hand off her knee, stood up and placed both hands on her hips.

"You broke into my home last night, why?"

"We need to talk."

~*~*~

"Is that how you talk to people these days? By breaking into their homes?"

Her sudden shift in mood threw him. One moment she was about to collapse in a heap on the floor and in the next, she was back in her Miss Parker persona.

But he knew she was just scared, of what exactly, he wasn't sure yet.

"I came here because ..." he wanted to say because he loved her and wanted her to come with him, but instead he said, "you are in grave danger."

She laughed. "Comes with territory when you work at the Centre." Her amusement died down as she continued. "Now, tell me something I don't know."

He wanted to tell her about his nightmares and how afraid he was that they would come true. But he knew she needed more than that. "Someone sent me a video email--."

Before he could finish she interrupted, "Who?"

"I don't know."

He could tell she was losing her patience. "Okay, then, what is it? And what does have to do with me?"

"I think you should see for yourself." She followed him as he left the bedroom and headed towards the living room.

He paused for a moment as he took in the scene. In the light of day, she would be able to see their clothes scattered around the room, proof of a night of unbridled passion.

Either she was too focused on the video to notice or she was just avoiding the obvious. She motioned him to hurry along as he pulled his laptop out of his bag and placed it on the dining room table. He picked up his discarded undershirt and put it on as she watched the footage unfold.

Lyle was meeting a man she hadn't seen before at the Centre's parking garage. He gave the unknown man an envelope and instructed him to make sure Miss Parker was in the warehouse before triggering the explosives. She figured the envelope consisted of money and a picture of her.

When the video ended, she paced around the room like a caged animal.

"He's not going to stop until you're dead."

She stopped dead in her tracks and turned to face him as she said through clenched teeth, "Neither am I."
The Trap by M Rose
See header for disclaimer.

Falling Down an Upward Spiral (part 4/8)

by M. Rose

~*~*~

He grabbed her arm and said, "You can't go back there."

Who the hell does he think he is? "Try and stop me," she bit out as she pulled her arm away.

Nothing was going to stop her from seeking revenge. Lyle was going to regret he ever decided to double-cross her.

"There's more."

She gave him an inquiring look, but he just motioned towards the computer screen.

What else could there possibly be?

She settled in front of the computer once again.

Jarod grabbed a chair, sat next to her and proceeded to explain. "I searched the mainframe for anything else; video, phone calls, email and found nothing. And then --"

"Let me guess, another crumb."

The possibility of a snitch at the Center would bother her, but since it had to do with her, she was willing to let it go -- for now.

Jarod nodded and then continued, "Clues that led me to another video transmission coming from somewhere inside the Centre. It was deleted, but I was able to retrieve it." He slid the laptop in his direction and with a few strokes of the keys he was ready.

But was she?

She didn't get a chance to analyze further before Jarod pressed a key and the screen came to life.

It was dark, but she could see Lyle and Raines.

"What happened at the warehouse?" Raines asked.

Lyle spit out in frustration, "I don't know. She must have figured out something wasn't right."

"Or someone told her."

"No, there was no way she could have known. It's that damn sixth sense or whatever it is that she has."

"And any trails that might lead to the Centre?"

"Already taken care of."

"I entrusted you to take care of this problem and you have failed. Maybe you're not the right sibling to take over the throne?" Raines wheezed out.

She heard a voice different from the others. "Now, now, don't be too harsh on the boy." The wind was knocked out of her as she listened to the familiar voice. If she weren't already sitting down, she would have fainted.

It couldn't be.

As the figure came out of the shadows, Lyle faced him and then Raines. "I am and I'll prove my worthiness."

"Now that's the kind of positive attitude I like to see."

Daddy ... Mr. Parker was alive.

She felt numb as the screen faded to black, her own family planning her death. She thought about how ironic it would be suffering the same fate as her mother.

Ironic and tragic.

She felt Jarod's hand on her shoulder. "That's why you can't go back."

She wanted to see the sincerity in his eyes, but she was angry. How dare he dictate what she could and couldn't do. "You don't get a say in the matter." She stood. "Thank you for showing me this, Jarod." She pointed towards the front door. "You can show yourself out."

"Dammit, Parker, don't push me away. I want to help you."

"I don't want your help."

"Look, you need time to clear your head. We can--"

She interrupted, "We? You expect me to what, run away with you? That may be the way you like to live your life, but it's not the way I run mine. I won't leave without a fight."

"Let me remind you that I run because of the Centre, not because I like to. And I fight every day of my life. For freedom. For my family. For a life."

"Oh, stop with the pity party, Jarod. It's tiring."

~*~*~

He couldn't understand why she was suddenly acting so harsh. She walked to the front door, but as she was opening it, he slammed it shut. With his hand still splayed against the wood of the door, he leaned into her and said in a low growl, "I'm not letting you do this."

He wasn't going to budge.

Her eyes narrowed as she yelled, "Get out of here, Jarod."

"Why are you pushing me away? So you don't have to feel again? You don't think you deserve it? Well, you do, Parker, more than you know. You deserve to feel the good things in life along with the bad. You deserve to feel loved ... happy. You deserve to be free from the clutches of the Centre."

"So, you can read my mind now. Is that it?"

Jarod pushed away from the door and sighed.

"I'm trying to reach out here, Parker."

"Well, reach somewhere else."

The awkward silence seemed to stretch for minutes. He wanted her to see that she didn't have to be alone ... that he was there for her. He wanted her to open up to him and show him the real Miss Parker he made love to only hours ago, not this Parker, a fašade that she developed so well throughout the years.

"What do you want from me, Jarod? Look, we fucked. It was great, but it doesn't mean you can tell me how to live my life. Now leave."

Anger coursed through his veins at her disregard for what they did. Dammit, it meant something to him and he knew it did to her, too. He grabbed her by the arms and shoved her against the wall.

"Don't belittle what we did. That was not some lurid affair. We made love and it was amazing." He let go of her and walked away a few feet then turned, "You asked what I want from you? I want some small part of you to open up and admit you're just as scared as I am."

She looked away and then he added, "We have a connection, Parker, don't deny it and don't blame it on a moment of weakness."

He walked away.

~*~*~

She leaned her head back against the wall. Jarod was pacing in front of the fireplace. It was his way of trying to figure things out. Figure her out.

He'd never succeed. She couldn't even figure herself out.

She realized that the only way he was going to leave would be if she told him the truth.

*It's confession time, Parker.*

"I had a dream."

He stopped pacing and just stared at her.

"More of a nightmare really." She stepped away from the wall and started pacing. She could feel his eyes tracking her every move, but she continued, "We ... were in ... bed and both Lyle and Raines came bursting, in typical Centre fashion. They must have found out about us because I obviously led them to you. They said that they already had Gemini and that they didn't need you anymore. They ... MURDERED you in cold blood. You died and it was my fault ... just like Tommy was."

He was in front of her now. "Tommy wasn't your fault, Parker. You've got to know that."

She was about to bring up the fact that it was actually his fault Tommy ever entered in her life, but thought better of it. She was too tired to start what she knew would become another argument.

She closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose in an attempt to ward off the headache building within her.

It didn't work, so she went to the kitchen. She needed a drink.

"Please ... just go, Jarod."

Ignoring her plea, he followed her. She poured herself a drink and when she was about to pick it up, he came from behind her and placed his hand over hers, stilling her movements.

"What happened to you in the dream?"

"It doesn't matter now."

He was so close she could feel his breath tickle against her ear. "Yes, it does."

She turned and he cradled her face in his hands.

"YOU matter."
Hope Eternal by M Rose
See header for disclaimer.

Falling Down an Upward Spiral (part 5/8)

by M. Rose

~*~*~

She woke up with thoughts of him ... of them still fresh in her mind.

They were standing, face to face in her kitchen as he cradled her features in the warmth of his hands.

"YOU matter."

His eyes radiated something she hadn't allowed herself to acknowledge ... he loved her.

He always had.

An overwhelming sensation began to stir within her.

Could it be ... love?

She never thought herself capable of such an act until she met Thomas Gates. And after his death, she vowed never to open her heart to anyone else.

But Jarod got under her skin.

There was a point in her life when she didn't care what happened to him. He was merely the ticket to her freedom. She couldn't remember when she began to see him not as a lab experiment, but as a person ... looking for the same thing she was -- the truth about who they really are.

Now a different truth was before her -- he loved her, but she couldn't return the feelings. There was no doubt in her mind that he would suffer the same fate as Momma and Tommy if the Centre ever knew her feelings went beyond childhood friendship. It was too much for her to bear.

She didn't realize she was crying until she felt him wiping away stray tears streaking down her face with the pads of his thumbs.

"Don't," he said, interrupting her thoughts as if he knew what she was thinking.

It shouldn't have surprised her, but it did.

He leaned his forehead against hers, closed his eyes and whispered, "Parker, please ... don't ... don't do this to yourself."

He leaned back and looked into the depths of her eyes. "Trust what's in your heart.

Let me love you."

Her strength weakened with the tender way he said those four words.

She wanted to let go.

She wanted to love and be loved.

In the short time she was with Tommy, she felt oddly complete, but she didn't realize it until the possibility of feeling that way again presented itself ... in Jarod.

She couldn't. It was easier to push him away than to take a risk and accept his love, regardless of the consequences. "Jaro--" but before she could finish his name, he silenced her with a slow, passionate kiss.

She couldn't stop a grin from emerging as she thought of the way he seamlessly picked her up and carried her to the bedroom to make love for the second time in just a few hours.

The Miss Parker she knew would kick any man's ass for performing such a Harlequin act, but he wasn't any man and she wasn't the same person she used to be.

She shook off her thoughts, grabbed her robe and headed towards the living room in search of Jarod.

"Jarod?"

He wasn't there.

In fact, there was no sign that he had ever been there.

The room was spotless.

The things they knocked over on the journey to the bedroom last night were put back in place. The picture of her and Momma was back in its original spot on the mantel and her glass was washed and put back in the cupboard.

She ran to her closet and threw the doors open. Hanging inside, the suit she wore last night. She pulled it out and noticed that it was neatly pressed as well.

She wondered why he would go through so much trouble? Not to mention, why he would leave if he wanted her to go with him? Unless ... he was simply a figment of her imagination -- again.

She was losing her mind. "Straight-jacket here I come," she quipped as she put the suit back into the closet and headed towards the shower.

*It felt so damn real.*

She stood under the hot spray and imagined all her problems with the Centre and her dysfunctional family cascade down her body and down the drain along with the water.

*If only it were that easy.*

And then her thoughts turned towards Jarod as she imagined the feel of his muscular chest against her back. His strong soapy hands slowly sliding up her thighs, hips and up her sides. Her skin breaking out in goose bumps as his fingers brushed against the swell of her breasts.

Tension as thick as the cloud of steam that surrounded them, waiting was no longer an option as he began devouring her neck.

Her head rocked back in pleasure. How she could have gone so long without him was a mystery to her.

And then, without warning he stopped, turned her around and pushed her against the tile. She felt her heart beat faster in excitement as she caught the intensity of his stare. Those dark pools of desire radiated through her and she knew what he was planning to do -- ravish her from head to toe.

She prepared herself in anticipation, but as his lips made contact, she jumped at the coldness of his touch.

As she came back to herself she realized it wasn't him who was ice cold, it was the freezing water bringing her out of her reverie.

"Dammit to hell."

She wasn't sure if she was mad because her fantasy was cut short or because it was only a fantasy.

As she shut off the water, she heard an unfamiliar buzzing sound. She put her robe on and followed the sound into the kitchen.

It was her coffee maker.

Even though it had an automatic timer, she never used it. She would simply start brewing a pot of coffee as she got dressed most mornings.

She also noticed a plate of fruit and toast next to the machine. A smile began to form as she wondered how he knew what time she would wake. "Not bad, Boy Wonder."

*That jacket will have to wait for another time.*

She drank her coffee, dressed and prepared herself for what would lie ahead.
Brotherly Love by M Rose
See header for disclaimer.

Falling Down an Upward Spiral (part 6/8)

by M. Rose

~*~*~

Sydney was outside the elevator, pacing. He was debating whether or not to call Miss Parker. Looking at his watch for what seemed like the hundredth time, it was almost noon and she had yet to show up for work.

He remembered her warning as she walked out of the door the day before. She was on her way home and threatened certain death to anyone who would dare disturb her.

He was glad that she was finally taking some time for herself, but he was now beginning to worry. He would never forgive himself if something ever happened to her.

He pulled out his cell phone and called her.

No answer.

He was about to leave a message in her voice mail when he heard her familiar footsteps from down the hall and was relieved to see her walking towards him dressed in her usual designer clothes and flawless hair. She seemed more relaxed than the last time he saw her, but there was something different about her today ... something he couldn't put his finger on.

He wondered if Jarod had anything to do with her current state.

"Miss Parker. I was just trying to reach you," he said as he tucked the cell phone back into his jacket. The elevator doors opened and they stepped inside.

She smiled as she pushed the button for her floor. "Worried about me, Syd?"

She had a brilliant smile. It reminded him of her mother. Catherine's warmth had radiated through her smile and always made him feel at ease in a place that promoted chaos.

A Miss Parker smile was a rarity indeed and he wished to see more of that. However, it was impossible to be happy when surrounded by so much tragedy.

"You seem to be in a good mood," he commented as the doors slid open and they approached her office.

"I am, Syd. But with my luck, it's going to be ruined any minute now."

~*~*~

As they entered her office, she stopped in her tracks at the scene before her. Lyle was sitting in her chair with his legs propped up on her desk and a phone in his hand.

Her good mood vanished as she growled, "What in the hell do you think you are doing in my office?"

He looked up and gave her a smirk. He used to be simply annoying, like a fly buzzing around. But knowing what he was up to, terrified her. She'd known he was capable of murder, but to kill his own flesh and blood was beyond sick.

She crossed her arms. She'd be damned to show any fear to him of all people.

"Uh, why don't I call you later." Lyle hung up the phone. "I've been looking for you."

She stepped up to the desk and pushed his feet off. "I see you've been trying real hard." She pointed towards her door. "NOW, GET OUT OF MY OFFICE."

He raised his hands. "Now now, calm down, sis. I'm here under the most charitable of causes."

She didn't believe a word he said. "You're all heart. If you don't mind, I have work to do."

He ignored her as he stood, smoothed the front of his jacket and asked, "So, have you any leads on Jarod?" She could tell by the tightness of his jaw how much he hated the Pretender.

If only he knew just how close she was. Visions of her dream flashed through her mind.

Lyle laughing.

Jarod's blood spattered on silk sheets.

Lyle poised to shoot at her point-blank in the face.

Sydney's voice cut through her thoughts as he spoke to Lyle. "We are pursuing all avenues."

"And I can see how successful that plan has been for you in the past."

Miss Parker growled, "And what is that supposed to mean?"

"Look, I don't want to fight ... I came here to talk."

"So talk."

"Not here."

Frustrated with this conversation, she spat out, "What?"

"Have dinner with your dear old brother."

"I'm older than you."

"Whatever."

"And if I don't?"

He led her away from prying ears and whispered, "Dad is alive."

She already knew that, but faked a surprised look. "What? Are you sure?"

"Oh yeah, but there something else, he's ... he's not right. He keeps mumbling about prophecies and how you're a big part of it. He wants you dead, Parker. Because the scrolls say you have to be."

"Did you see them?"

She never had the chance to read the scrolls before Daddy jumped with them out of the plane. Was that her fate? Death? After everything she had gone through?

She'd be damned if she let that happen.

"No. He said he couldn't hold on to it when he jumped out of the plane. As far as he knows, it sank into the water." Lyle answered, unaware of her inner turmoil.

"Why are you telling me this?"

"Because you need to know. Because, believe it or not, I care."

She gave him an incredulous look and then realized something, "You're afraid he'll turn on you next."

"The thought has crossed my mind."

She wasn't surprised. Lyle was always looking out for one person -- himself.

She was about to make a sarcastic comment when Broots came rushing into her office.

"Dinner." Lyle walked backwards towards the door. "Sprezzo's. About seven?"

She forced a smile. "Can't wait."

Her frown came back as soon as he turned and disappeared through the doors. There was a small part of her that wanted to believe he really cared about her, like siblings should.

"Uh, Miss Parker?"

Tense and confused from her confrontation with her brother, she bit out, "What, Broots?"

From behind the nervous Tech's back emerged a package. "Uh ... this came for you."

"From Jarod, I presume." She took the package from Broots and ripped it open only to find a life preserver.

"A life preserver? Why would Jarod send a life preserver?" Broots asked.

Miss Parker glanced at Sydney. She knew what he was thinking. The symbolism was not lost on either of them. Jarod wanted to save her drowning soul. He had been trying to save her for a very long time and she wondered if he would ever give up.

Sarcastically she said, "How the hell should I know," and threw the object at Broots. He caught it as she walked away.

"Uh ... wait, Miss Parker."

She stopped and turned. "What now?"

He bent down and picked up an envelope off the floor. "Look, this must have fallen out of the box and it has your name on it."

She snatched the envelope and ripped it open.

His curiosity peaked, Sydney asked, "What is it, Parker?"

She showed it to the doctor. "Just the number twelve written on it."

"It's in Jarod's handwriting. I wonder what's the significance of that particular number?"

"Just another one of his cryptic messages."

"There is always a meaning to his messages, Miss Parker."

Annoyed with the doctor's musings, she started to crumple the note until she noticed something written on the back of the paper. It was today's date and a time.

She glanced at the preserver in Broots' hands, "Find out where this came from and notify me as soon as possible." She walked out the door with the note still clutched in her hand.
Patience is Not a Virtue by M Rose
See header for disclaimer.

Falling Down an Upward Spiral (part 7/8)

by M. Rose

~*~*~

He watched the clock as another minute passed him by.

It had been almost twelve hours since he last saw her and the ache within him increased with each passing minute.

She was late.

Forty-three minutes and twenty nine seconds late to be precise.

He ran his hand up his unshaven face and through his hair in frustration and then he began to pace in the very small space of the cabin.

He had bought the boat that morning after seeing it advertised in a flyer at a local diner. By the afternoon, it was stocked with enough supplies to last them both until their next destination. That is, if he could convince her to come with him.

His pacing came to an abrupt stop, it was doing nothing to calm the anxiety quickly building within him. After everything they had gone through, he was sure Parker would come. She was as sick of the games as he was and it had already been established that she cared for him. No. She more than cared for him. And he didn't need words of adulation to confirm her feelings. Her actions spoke louder than words could ever tell. She loved him. Of that, he was sure with every fiber of his being.

Whether or not she was aware of that fact was another question.

Regardless of what she felt for him, she told him to leave. She had just revealed her innermost fears to him, exposing the gaping hole of vulnerability that was always taboo in her life and expected him to simply leave?

He wouldn't budge.

She could have grabbed her 9mm and blow his head off. Or worse, she could have sent him back to the Centre to be tortured and killed at the hands of Lyle and Raines. But she did neither. Instead, she simply walked away.

He cheered a silent victory at her change of demeanor until he realized she had a different plan, one that consisted of drowning in a sea of Scotch.

A woman who used to garner enjoyment from watching men cower as she threatened and sometime executed severe bodily harm was now self-inflicting the pain.

Jarod didn't need to use his Pretender skills to see that she was spiraling down a destructive path.

He could never let that happen.

He had cradled his hands in the softness of her features and looked into her eyes. The cracks in the hard exterior meticulously put together all those years ago began to show as tears streamed down her cheeks. He wiped them away, wishing that would be all he had to do to take her pain away.

If only it were that easy.

They have both had a life filled with loneliness and guilt. A life manipulated since birth. A Centre life.

THEIR control over him stopped when he escaped over five years ago, but their control over her life never ended. It was a daughter's love for her father that kept her a prisoner. Rather than show an inkling of affection in return, Mr. Parker used her endless adoration to control her every move.

Her eyes had a far-a-way look to them and he knew she was deep in thought, mentally torturing herself for things beyond her control -- beyond both of their control.

"Don't," he had pleaded as he leaned his forehead against hers and whispered, "Parker, please ... don't ... don't do this to yourself."

He remembered someone telling him once that the eyes were the windows into the soul. After his escape, he wondered for a long time if she even had such a thing. The little girl who had been his constant companion, had given him his first kiss and whispered her name in his ear had turned into a woman with a heart made of stone. He had hoped that the little girl was still in there somewhere.

His last chance came in the form of a man by the name of Thomas Gates. Upon his first encounter with Thomas, Jarod knew this was someone who could do what he could not -- break her tough exterior.

He was right.

Sometimes he hated being right.

He kept in contact with his friend after Miss Parker and Thomas became involved. But the calls became less and less frequent.

It became difficult to hear of how happy the couple was.

As volatile as their relationship was, somehow he always felt deep inside that he and Parker would end up together. He believed in the fairytale ending where he would be reunited with his family and live happily ever after. Parker was a part of that picture until the possibility for her and Thomas to have a normal life together came painfully into view.

Not that Jarod wasn't happy for them, he was. Thomas was a good man who loved Parker with all he had. And Jarod was pretty sure that Parker felt the same. That made the Pretender feel optimistic about his chances of getting her out of the Centre's grasp once and for all. But his plan backfired when Thomas was murdered.

Jarod knew that if Parker stayed at the Centre any longer, she too would become another Centre casualty ... like Thomas ... and her mother.

He leaned back and looked into the depths of her eyes. "Trust what's in your heart.

Let me love you."

And she did.

He smiled at the memory of heated bodies and sensual kisses. And just as quickly as the smile appeared, it faded as he looked around the empty cabin and glanced at his watch again.

Fifty-one minutes and nine seconds late.

His decision to leave her in the morning weighed heavily on his mind. He knew she would head straight into the lion's den as soon as she awoke and that was the last place he wanted Parker to be, but he had some plans to make if they were going to get away without Centre sweepers hot on their trail.

Everything was going they way he planned. He sent his usual clue to Parker's office in hopes that she would track him to the boat.

Preferably alone.

He wasn't worried when she didn't show up at the time he specified on the note, but she was now almost an hour late.

Not willing to wait any longer, he called Parker's cell phone. When she didn't answer after a few rings, he hung up and redialed.

"Come on, pick up."

After two more unsuccessful attempts at reaching Parker, he dialed a different number.

"This is Sydney."

"Do you know where Miss Parker is?"

"Jarod, you sound troubled. Are you okay?"

"I'm not the one you should be worried about."

"Is Miss Parker in danger?"

"I don't know. I haven't been able to reach her. Did anything unusual happen today?"

"Jarod, this is the Centre. Everything is up for speculation."

"Humor me, Sydney."

"Lyle did ask Miss Parker out to dinner earlier today. She refused at first, but apparently she relented. I questioned whether that was wise, but you know how she is."

A surge of panic went through him at the thought of Lyle setting a trap for Parker, a trap that would end in her death.

His nightmare was coming true.

"Jarod? Are you there?"

"Thanks, Sydney."

"Jarod. Do be careful."

Jarod disconnected the call, grabbed his leather jacket and rushed out of the cabin as fast as he could.

He only hoped he could get to Parker in time.
Choices Made by M Rose
Author's Notes:

I thought I had updated all the chapters, but realized recently that the last chapter did not update.  Sorry about that.  Here it is. 

See headers for disclaimer.

Falling Down an Upward Spiral (part 8/8)

by M. Rose

~*~*~

The constant trill of the phone irritated her to the core, but she would not answer it.

For over 20 minutes she sat in her car staring out the window ... gathering up the courage to do what she knew in heart she had to do.

"What about ... us?"

"You run, I chase. That choice was made for us long ago."

She never believed in choices. Of course, she never had any to begin with - a byproduct of pleasing Daddy.

Jarod always told her that she could make her own choices in life, but she never believed ... until now.

She could choose to be with him or find the truth.

It wasn't as easy as it sounded.

The urge to drop everything and go to Jarod was overwhelming, but part of her *needed* to find the truth. Surely Daddy couldn't have really wanted her dead simply because he read it in the Scrolls, could he? Was he that far gone? He had pretended to be in a catatonic state to fool the Africans while she and Jarod were locating the Scrolls. Maybe this was another ruse? But why?

Then her thoughts turned towards her twin. Lyle's niceties earlier in her office grated her nerves. She only agreed to meet him for dinner to get him out of her office quicker. She had to admit, she was extremely curious to find out his true intentions. Was he was really trying to help her or was it just another one of his games?

The more she thought about the footage Jarod had showed her and what Lyle had said, the more confused she became and the renewed sense of purpose she was filled with earlier was now clouded with doubt.

Her father wanted to kill her.

Her brother wanted to help her.

It didn't make any sense.

Nothing did anymore.

And then there were the constant nightmares. She was sure they were premonitions of some sort. Either that or she was suffering a nervous breakdown.

She didn't know which she preferred.

She pulled out the crumpled note Jarod had left with his latest clue. He was usually very cryptic with his messages, but this time was different. She was no longer his huntress. Without words they had formed a bond, joined together as a team that began in an island in Scotland.

Broots had traced the lifesaver to a marina in Bayville, Delaware. The number written on the note corresponded with a boat docked in its spot. There was also a time written on the other side of the note. Coincidentally, the same time that she was to meet Lyle.

Jarod's words back on the island lingered in the back of her mind as her cell phone began ringing ... again. "I just hate to see anyone miss a turning point when one is staring them right in the face."

She tore her eyes away from the window and stared at the phone lying on the passenger seat.

"Turning points only come when you've got something to turn to."

She snatched the phone and quickly answered, "Hello? Jarod?" But she was greeted with a dial tone.

Sighing, she turned off the phone and threw it back on the seat. Maybe it was better she not talk to him anyway.

He probably already knew about her meeting with Lyle and would try desperately to stop her. She silently chuckled to herself. Jarod was as stubborn, if not more, than she was. She chased, threatened and even prevented him from finding vital information about his family so she could capture him for her own selfish reasons. Yet, he never gave up on her.

Jarod may have been a thorn on her side, but he gave her something no one since her mother ever had, he gave her hope.

Unwavering hope ... and love.

In that moment, everything became clear and a decision was made. She was choosing a destiny of her own making, not from ancient writings on a piece of paper, however sacred it might be. And not a destiny chosen by a man she always thought of as her father, not anymore.

Her liberation from the Centre's grasp was invigorating. It was as if she released over 30 years of disappointment and pain.

Filled with newfound confidence, she stepped out of the car and pulled out her gun as she headed towards the unknown.

When she arrived at her destination, she read the note to make sure she was in the right place and then looked straight ahead ... into the blackness of the water as it lapped against the dock.

There was no boat.

There was no Jarod.

Dejected, she sighed and closed her eyes.

He left without her.

It was what she wanted. For Jarod to be free and away from danger, but a part of her wanted to know what pure freedom felt like or rather freedom WITH Jarod.

She had to laugh about the irony of it all. If she didn't, she'd cry into a heap right on the dock.

It just wasn't meant to be.

THEY weren't meant to be.

Disappointment wasn't foreign to her. In fact, it was the only constant in her life. But it didn't make it any less painful.

She could hear Daddy now, "Just another lesson to learn in life, Angel. You can't rely on love."

She went to pull her cell phone out of her pocket to call Sydney when she remembered throwing the object on the seat of her car.

"Shit."

She started back towards the car when she heard a familiar voice. "Excuse me." Her eyes widened as she turned and stared at the man before her.

He picked the note out of her hand and turned it right side up to reveal the number 21. "I believe you had this upside down."

Still in shock that he was standing before her, she said, "You're kidding."

He shrugged his shoulders and smiled.

She noticed his hand clutching a jacket. "Going somewhere?"

His features turned serious. "When you ... you didn't answer your cell ... I thought --"

"What? That I was with the evil spawn?"

He nodded slowly as if he couldn't believe she really came. She couldn't believe it either.

"Sydney told me about your plans to meet with Lyle."

"Yeah, in the office today he told me that Daddy was alive and that the Scrolls," she paused for a moment. It was harder to say the words out loud, "foretold my death. I guess he didn't like the pace and wanted to expedite events."

"So Lyle told you this out of the kindness of his heart?" he said skeptically. "One could run through that obvious lie."

He was right. Her brother would never change. "True," she turned away from him and sighed, "even after everything he had done, a small part of me wanted to believe him," tears stung her eyes, "but I guess tigers never change their stripes, do they?"

He didn't answer, instead she felt his arms encircle her and she leaned into his embrace.

It felt nice.

It felt like home.

But there was something she needed to know.

"Why am I here, Jarod?"

"Come with me."

Without escaping his embrace, she turned to face him. "What?"

"Come with me, Parker."

"I ... I don't know. This is --"

"Scary?"

She nodded. "Terrifying."

He rubbed up and down her arms in soothing motions. "We can be scared together."

She didn't answer. Her confidence weakened as fear crept back into her soul.

"How about it Parker?"

She stepped away from the warmth of his embrace. "This," she pointed at one the boats, "the two of us cramped in a tin can ... we would drive each other crazy before we left the dock and you know it. I'm sorry Jarod, but the answer is no."

"Aw, come on Parker. Give it a chance. Give us a chance. We deserve at least that, don't we?"

Suddenly a flash of white light blinded her. She shut her eyes, but then opened them when she felt a hand on her cheek. At first she thought it was Jarod's, but it was more delicate, and softer. "Momma?" Her mother was standing before her, young and beautiful. She wanted to ask her so many things, but before Parker could say anything, her mother answered, "Shhh, my love, everything's going to be fine IF you believe what's in your heart. Believe in him, sweetheart." And just as fast as the flash came, it went and she was once again face with his luscious brown eyes.

"Okay," she whispered, but then continued in more forceful tone, "but if this doesn't workout, you realize I will kill you."

His face broke out in a huge grin as he pulled her closer. "I don't doubt that for a second, Parker."

She shook her head as she questioned, "Jarod, are we crazy?"

"Certifiable." He whispered as he leaned in to touch his lips against hers.

~end~

Author Notes: There were several ways this could have ended. My initial ending was going to be very sad and angsty, but dammit I went with the happy ending route. Oh well, those two kids deserve a happy ending ... for now anyway.;-)



This story archived at http://www.pretendercentre.com/missingpieces/viewstory.php?sid=250